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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

For most freshmen at UF, the transition from high school takes at least a semester. For Joey Burkhardt and Carlos Cueto, the transition period lasted three weeks.

Burkardt and Cueto entered the 2008 Southern Intercollegiate in Athens, Ga., untested against college competition and ended up playing deeper than any of their teammates, knocking off a couple top-100 players in the process.

"Both of those guys showed they're going to make major contributions this year. We're pleased with their first event," coach Andy Jackson said.

Burkhardt opened the tournament Friday with a come-from-behind win against Brandon Corace of Virginia Tech. Burkhardt dropped the first set 4-6 before rallying back strong with a pair of 6-2 victories.

The freshman didn't have it easy against Lucas Jovita, ranked 50th in the nation, of South Florida on Saturday. Jovita won the first set decisively 6-0, but Burkhardt came back strong and won the match in three sets, 0-6, 7-5, 6-3. Burkhardt then won handily 6-1, 6-1 against Bo Ladyman of Furman.

"Joey got to the singles and doubles quarters in his first event out, which is extremely unusual," Jackson said.

Not to be outdone, Cueto looked impressive and emerged victorious in his first two matches as a Gator.

Cueto debuted Friday with a 6-2, 6-2 win against Michael Boyer of the College of Charleston. He followed Friday's seemingly effortless performance with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 win against Jamal Adderly, of South Florida, ranked 91st in the nation.

"Cueto beat a guy who beat (then Gators' number two player) Nestor Briceno last year and showed, that while he has a lot to learn, he's going to be able to contribute immediately," Jackson said.

After winning his first two matches, Jackson pulled Cueto from the tournament due to a sore back.

Jackson teamed the two freshmen up in doubles action, and the duo reached the quarterfinals before losing against the South Florida team of Jovita and Thomas Estrada.

Both freshmen come in with high expectations. Burkhardt, from St Augustine, was considered a blue chip prospect and ranked 21st by Cueto joins the team from Schiller International in Madrid, Spain.

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Other Gators performed strong at the tournament, as well. Johnny Hamui dropped his first match to Paul Bishop of Armstrong Atlantic 1-6, 6-4, 6-2, but won two consolation matches.

"We had seven guys show that they can compete at a pretty high level in the SEC," Jackson said.

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